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BR 45 .H36 v. 12
Candlish, James Stua

-1897.
Christian doctrine of God



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THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
OF GOD.



BY

JAMES S. CANDLISH, D.D.,

PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY IN THE FREE CHURCH COLLEGK,
GLASGOW.



-o-



EDIN BURGH:
T. & T. CLARK, 38 GEORGE STREET



PREFACE.



The object of this volume is to provide a text-book on the first
part of Systematic Theology similar to the many compends that
were found useful to students in former times, but adapted to
the requirements of the present age. Several such works have
appeared, and had a large circulation in Germany, such as Hase's
Hutterus Redivhms, Luthardt's Compendm?n der Dogmaiik, and
others ; but the only book in English exhibiting in brief compass
the theology of the Reformed Church is Dr. A. A. Hodge's Out-
lines of Theology, which is already a quarter of a century old.
A greater adaptation of the form of presenting the unchanging
truth of the gospel to the habits of viewing such subjects at
present seems to be desirable, especially in the following ways.

The evidences of Christianity cannot be kept so distinct from
its contents as was common down to the last generation, for it
is increasingly felt that the contents of Christianity are its strongest
evidence, commending themselves to the mind, conscience, and
heart of man. It is desirable to bring more closely together
doctrine and evidence, Apologetic and Systematic Theology :
not proving or assuming the absolute authority of Scripture
before entering on the study of its contents, and then allowing
no appeal save to it ; but rather beginning upon more general
ground, and showing in regard to each doctrine, as we come
to it, that it rests on solid ground of fact, using not merely the
evidence of Scripture testimony, which, however, must always
hold the chief place in any statement of Christian doctrine ; but
also, wherever it is possible, the proofs and confirmations arising
from nature, experience, and history.

The increased knowledge that we have of non-Christian religions

7



Q PREFACE.

makes it desirable to utilize, when possible, in Systematic Theo-
logy the results of modern research in that department, by com-
paring the doctrines taught in Scripture, not only with deviations
from them within the pale of Christendom, but with the principles
of the great ethnic religions and systems of philosophy ; and
such a use of the Science of Religion, or Comparative Theology,
is especially suited for a missionary age of the Church, when she
is awake to her high calling, to testify of her Lord and His salva-
tion in the face of the varying creeds of all the nations.

The growth and value of the study of Biblical Theology should
also be recognised by the Systematic theologian, and must modify
the form and manner of his discussion of doctrines. Account
should be taken of the distinctive character of the different por-
tions of Scripture, and their historical relation to each other, as
successive stages in a gradual process of education, increasing in
clearness and fulness as it goes on ; and an endeavour should be
made to take as the leading idea of the systematic arrangement,
not any dictate of mere philosophy, but some Biblical notion
understood in its true historical sense. The notion of the king-
dom of God seems to be that which has the highest authority
and is most comprehensive ; and it has therefore been taken here
as the basis of the arrangement and establishment of the various
doctrines of Christianity.

Regard for these considerations has led to some deviation from
the order and manner in which the body of Christian doctrine has
commonly been set forth ; but it has not required any alteration
of the substance and real meaning of the theology of the Reforma-
tion ; and if there is occasionally a frank expression of dissent
from men and documents of high reputation in the Reformed
Churches, that is not inconsistent with great respect for them,
and hearty agreement in maintaining the essential doctrines
of grace.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

INTRODUCTION, ii



PART I.

PRESUPPOSITION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD:
GOD IS THE INFINITE SPIRIT.

CHAPTER I.

THE PERSONAL AUTHOR AND GOVERNOR OF NATURE, . . 1 5

CHAPTER II.

THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION, 24

CHAPTER III.

THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE, 34

CHAPTER IV.

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD MANIFESTED IN CREATION AND

PROVIDENCE, 47



PART II.

MAIN REVELATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD:
GOD IS HOLY LOVE.

CHAPTER I.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD REVEALS HIM AS HOLY LuVE, . . 57

9



10 contp:nts.

CHAPTER 11.

PAGE
COMPARISON OF OTHER CONCEPTIONS, 63

CHAPTER HI.

EVIDENCE OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPTION, . 71

CHAPTER IV.

THE MORAL ATTRIBUTES OF GOD, 80

CHAPTER V.

god's PLAN OF THE UNIVERSE, 9I



PART III.

COROLLARY FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD:
GOD IS THREE IN ONE.

CHAPTER I.
THK CHRISTIAN KINGDOM OF GOD IMPLIES A TRINITY, . . 102

CHAPTER II.

THE SON OF GOD, I05

CHAPTER HI.

THE SPIRIT OF GOD, I 16

CHAPTER IV.

FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT, 121

CHAPTER V.

RELATION OF THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE TO THOSE OF OTHER

SYSTEMS, 127

CHAPTER VI.

THE TRINITY IN RELATION TO GOD AS SPIRIT AND AS HOLY

LOVE, 13^



THE

CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF GOD.

INTRODUCTION.

Christian Doctrine is the theory or explanation of the facts
of Christianity ; just as natural science is of the facts of nature.
It aims at presenting them in the clearest possible form to the
intellect ; reducing the manifold, as much as may be, to the sim-
phcity of general laws or ideas, and showing the connection and
mutual relations of these. This study is called doctrine, rather
than science or philosophy, because in Christianity we have a
divine revelation, and in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testa-
ments a divine record of that revelation. We are therefore not
only inquirers, but disciples of Christ ; and we have from Him a
teaching which it is our duty to take in for ourselves, and, in
turn, to set forth to others. We must make our inductions from
the facts of Christianity under the guidance of the Bible ; though
we must also seek to verify its statements, as far as possible, by
the undoubted truths of history and experience. In the success
of such verification lies the practical proof of the divinity of
Scripture.

This study of doctrine has been a progressive one in the Chris-
tian Church. From the beginning, Christians have had faith in
Christ and His teaching ; but at first without any definite intel-
lectual conceptions of what that implied. By degrees one part
of Christ's teaching after another was studied, and distinct truths

were seen to be contained in it, the understanding of which became

11



12 THL CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF GOD.

gradually more complete. Sometimes, however, mistakes were
made ; the notions even of earnest believers were often one-sided,
defective, or exaggerated ; and long and fierce debates arose,
sometimes ending in the separation of Christians into distinct
communities, each maintaining a different notion on some point
of doctrine. The student has to inquire which of these conflict-
ing opinions is most in accordance with Scripture and the facts
of Christianity. Hence every exhibition of Christian doctrines
has to mark them off, by comparison with inadequate or per-
verted representations of them by some bodies of Christians.

But Christianity is a universal and missionary religion ; and
those who seek to exhibit its intellectual contents in the form of
doctrines, should not only aim at separating them from inade-
quate and distorted representations that have appeared among
Christian thinkers, but also at showing their relation to the re-
ligious notions that have prevailed among men outside Christen-
dom entirely. The erroneous beliefs of Christians, which are
technically termed "heresies," are not essentially different, and
were not distinguished by ancient writers, from similar errors of
non- Christian philosophers or religious teachers ; and it would give
our theology a more wide, living, and practical character than it
has sometimes had, if the scriptural doctrines that we maintain
were considered, not only in their relations to other concep-
tions of Christianity, such as the Roman Catholic, the Rational-
istic, and the Mystic ; but also in relation to other views of re-
ligion in general, such as those of Brahmanism, of Buddhism, of
Parseeism, of Confucianism, and of Islam. Such a wider view
would enable us to see, not merely in general, but in reference to
each of its great doctrines, where Christianity stands among the
religions of the world; how far any of them coincide with its
teaching, and where and in what directions they diverge.

The facts of Christianity, from which the theologian has to start
as his data, are numerous and varied, including the life, teaching,
and work of Jesus Christ, His death, resurrection, and ascension,
with the whole life, experience, thought, worship, and work of



INTRODUCTION. 1 3

Christians all down the ages. They may, however, be gathered
up in a general statement, based on what was Jesus' own most
usual and comprehensive expression for the object of His work,
" the kingdom of God." It may be put thus : that in a world,
made and governed by God, but alienated from Him, Jesus
has established the kingdom of God, i.e. a fellowship of men,
in which the highest morality is obeyed as the will of God, and
the highest blessedness enjoyed in communion with Him.^

That the kingdom of God or of heaven proclaimed by Jesus is
a fellowship of men, appears not only from the natural import of
the word " kingdom," but from such expressions as, " least in the
kingdom," "great in the kingdom" (Matt. v. 19, xviii. 4), "of
such is the kingdom," " he shall in no wise enter therein " (Mark
X. 14, 15), etc. That in it the highest morality is obeyed, is clear
from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt, v.-vii. ; Luke vi. 20-42)
and the whole tenor of our Lord's teaching ; and that it is
done as the will of God, appears from the phrase " kingdom,"
which often means " reign," " of God," from its being joined in
the Lord's Prayer with the doing of His will (Matt. vi. 10), and
from the many parables in which God is represented as a King,
a Master, a Householder, a Shepherd, a Father, a Judge (Matt.
XX. I, xxii. 2, XXV. 14, 34; Luke xv. 4, 11, xvii. 7, etc.). Finally,
it is plain that it includes the highest blessedness ; since it is to
be sought as the chief good (Matt. vi. '},■}) ', Luke xii. 32) ; is com-
pared to a treasure, or pearl of great price (Matt. xiii. 44-46) ;
and is the final reward of the righteous (Matt. xiii. 43, xxv. 34),
as well as the beginning and the end of their blessedness here
(Matt. V. 3, 10 ; Luke vi. 20).

1 In my Cunningham Lectures on the Kingdom of God (Lecture IV. pp.
193-224), I have given and endeavoured to justify a fuller definition, as that
seemed appropriate, after a consideration of all the Biblical materials (in
Lectures II. and III.), and in view of a survey of the historical attempts to
realize the kingdom of God (in Lecture V.) ; but here, where the object is to
develop the Christian doctrine of God, it is better to start from a simpler con-
ception, such as can be verified by a mere reference to the outstanding and
undoubted facts of our Lord's teaching.



14 THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF GOD.

Thus, without any minute discussion of texts, such as is neces-
sary to make out a complete definition of the kingdom of God, the
general and undoubted nature of our Lord's teaching establishes
the truth of the description here given, which is sufficient for our
present purpose.

The body of Christian doctrine has commonly been divided
into the following parts : — I, Theology proper, or the doctrine of
God; II. Anthropology, or the doctrine of Man; III. Soteriology,
or the doctrine of salvation ; IV. Ecclesiology, or the doctrine of
the Church, the company of the saved ; and V. Eschatology, or
the doctrine of the last things. It is only the first of these with
which we have to do at present.

Now we have to ask. What does the kingdom of God imply and
reveal about God ? and if we can answer this question correctly
and completely, we shall exhibit the Christian doctrine of God in
its essential parts. Besides what our Lord's proclamation and
foundation of the kingdom of God directly reveals, there are certain
truths about God that it presupposes as already known and
believed. These we must consider in the first place. Then,
coming to the proper teaching of Jesus, we shall find that what it
directly reveals is the moral character of God as holy love ; but
that in doing so, it further discloses a mysterious threefold dis-
tinction in the unity of the Godhead. These are the three parts
into which the subject naturally falls : —

Part First. — Presupposition of the Kingdom of God : God is
The Infinite Spirit.

Part Second. — Main Revelation of the Kingdom of God : God
is Holy Love.

Part Third.— Corollary from the Kingdom of God • God is Three
in One.



PART I.

PRESUPPOSITION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD:
GOD IS THE INFINITE SPIRIT.



CHAPTER I.

THE PERSONAL AUTHOR AND GOVERNOR OF NATURE.

Besides what Jesus directly revealed of God in His teaching and
work of founding the kingdom of God, there are some truths
about Him without which that work would have been impossible,
but which did not need to be expressly taught or proved ; since
they are manifested by other works of God, and were generally
believed by those among whom Jesus wrought. These do not
form parts of the notion of the kingdom of God, but are presup-
posed in it as things without which that notion would be incon-
ceivable. \^'hen Jesus began His ministry by announcing " the
reign of God is at hand" (Matt. iv. 17 ; Mark i. 15), He took it for
granted that His hearers knew God, and knew Him to be such a
Being as could have a reign over them. It was not so when the
apostles came to preach to heathens ; for then they had, in the first
place, to declare to them a God that they knew not, though they
might be groping after Him and conscious of their ignorance
(Acts xvii. 23); they had to show them that the deities they
worshipped were vain idols, and exhort them to turn to the living
God (Acts xiv. 15 ; i Thess. i. 9).

15



r6 THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF GOD.

So, too, in pre-Christian times, men needed to be taught to
know God before they could enjoy His salvation. When Moses
was sent by God to Egypt to bring Israel out of bondage, the
first thing he expected to be asked about Him who sent him was.
What is His name? (Ex. iii. 13); and God enabled him to
answer that question by revealing Himself as Jehovah, " I am
that I am" {ib. 14). The prophets also found it necessary, while
the Israelites were very imperfectly enlightened in the knowledge
of God, and apt to confound or associate Him with the deities of
the nations around them, to remind them who and what Jehovah
their God was (Amos iv. 13, v. 8; Isa. xl. 18-26; Jer. x. 1-16 ;
Ps. cxv., cxlvii., etc.). They appeal, like the apostles afterwards,
to the glory of God appearing in nature : for the Biblical writers
ever assume that men ought to have known God from His works,
though in fact they have not done so.

The only case in which Jesus is recorded to have spoken
directly of what God is, was His conversation with the Samaritan
woman (John iv. 19-26) ; and we see that in this one case, where
we have an account of His unfolding His salvation to one outside
the people of the Jews who knew what they worshipped. He
begins at an earlier point than in speaking to the Jews, and
declares, what her question about the place of Avorship showed
she had not fully understood, " God is a Spirit," or God is spirit,
not material, therefore not confined to any one place, but to be
approached everywhere ; a spirit also not merely in this negative
sense, but positively as well, having mind, will, desire ; not a mere
impersonal power, but a Being who is spoken of in personal
language, and may also be called the Father.

This elementary but sublime teaching to the Samaritan stranger
corresponds with what Jesus everywhere assumes in His preach-
ing to Jews about the kingdom of God, and what that kingdom
as an actual reality implies. The very idea of the kingdom of
God involves a belief in God as a living, intelligent power, who
can be to men in the relation of a king to his subjects. If this
relation be not a mere name or empty figure of speech, there must -



THE PERSONAL AUTHOR AND GOVERNOR OF NATURE. 1 7

be SO far a likeness between God and man that we do not err in
ascribing to Him those attributes that are excellences in our-
selves, such as knowledge, will, affection. These are what we
mean when we say that we are mind, or spirit, as distinct from
matter ; and so, when God is spoken of as Spirit, and as know-
ing, feeling, and willing, He is distinguished from the material
world which we perceive, as well as from our own souls, of which
we are conscious.

Further, the kingdom of God, as proclaimed by Jesus, implies
that God is supreme over the universe, as well as distinct from it.
If He were not so, His kingdom could not be the sum of all blessings
and the highest good of men : for if there were in existence any
powers over which God had not absolute and entire control, these
might possibly frustrate His purpose, and mar the peace and
happiness of those who were most entirely in His kingdom. To
this agree all the positive representations of God given by Jesus.
He is our Father in heaven ; heaven .is His throne, and the earth
His footstool (Matt. v. 34, 35) ; He makes the sun to rise and the
rain to fall {ib. 45) ; He seeth in secret (vi. 4, 6, 18) ; He can give
all things to those who seek first His kingdom and righteousness
(vi. 33) ; all things are possible to Him (xix. 26). Nothing there-
fore can be conceived as independent of God, and no limit can be
set to His presence or power. He is a Spirit, infinite in being and
perfections.

This first part of the Christian doctrine of God is not a new
revelation by Christ ; nor indeed could it ever be taught by revela-
tion, were it not evident from the phenomena of nature in which
God's glory is seen. Thus much about God has been believed
by many of the greatest and best philosophers, such as Socrates,
Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, whose opinions on mental and moral science
are still regarded with respect by all thinkers, and who without
any revelation were led to this belief in God by arguments that
have appeared sound and conclusive to most of those who have
considered them in successive generations. Of the many and
various arguments that have been used for this purpose, that from

B



1 8 THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF GOD.

the evidences of design in the adaptation of means to ends in
nature is the most common and striking.

But the belief of a personal God as the author of nature is far
older than these intellectual arguments, by which it has been
confirmed in times of speculative inquiry and doubt ; and is to be
traced back, not to processes of reasoning, but most probably to
intuitive convictions of the mind, conscience, and heart, which
may be justified by philosophical discussion, but in their primitive
form are distinct from anything of the sort.

Conscience, which gives law inwardly, carries the belief of a
spiritual Lawgiver; and the perception of the movements and
changes in the things around us has always led simple and
unsophisticated men, as it does children, to ascribe these to the
same cause that we are conscious of in ourselves as leading to
movements of our limbs, viz. an intelligent will, and thus to believe
in a personal power behind the appearances of nature. Those
movements in outward things will be only gradually classified,
and the distinction most obvious at first will be between those
that cause pleasure and comfort and those that bring discomfort
and suffering : the former would be regarded as indications of
kindness, and the latter as expressions of anger or ill-will on the
part of the Being, or beings, supposed to animate the phenomena
of nature.

In this primitive form of belief the idea of unity in the will-
power recognised in nature is not distinctly present : it is
suggested rather by the moral feeling of duty, which leads to
the recognition of a personal Lord and Lawgiver : the unity
which science has discerned in the physical world cannot have
been apparent in the infancy of the race ; but if the minds of
primitive men distinguished the appearances of nature, it would
probably be at first as they affected them pleasantly or painfully,
and the tendency would be to think of different moods of the
power in nature rather than of difterent powers.^ Afterwards,


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